Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles

ProfessionColonial Administrator
Place of BirthPort Morant, Jamaica

Raffles was a highly colourful character who rose to prominence by his actions in the South China seas. The son of a ship's cook in Port Morant, Jamaica, he joined the East India company as a clerk becoming the secretary of a company establishment in Penang in 1805. In 1811, he joined an expedition to Java, upon its capture, he became its lieutentant-governor. His administrative zeal transformed that part of the Empire, until ill health forced his return to England for recuperation.

He returned to the Orient to become the Lieutenant-governor of Benkulen in Western Sumatra (1818 - 23). It was in this position of authority that he formed, withouth authority, the settlement of Singapore. The rationale was to counter Dutch influence in the area, although it became successful due to the position it held on the route to China. He finally returned to England in 1824, although on the way he lost most of his possessions and writings in a fire on the ship. An extremely active Imperialist, he is regarded as being a key Nineteenth Century imperial expansionist who would spur many imitators in future generations of Imperialists.

In addition to his administrative career, he published a History of Java in 1817 and founded and presided over London Zoo.

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by Stephen Luscombe